“But you’ve never even been to Forest Hills! How can you say that you could never live there?”
So Sunday, I did my part for marital harmony. We wandered about this corner of Queens where my husband once lived and where the two-bedrooms are slightly more affordable, and yes, I will agree that especially in that tudor part, this neighborhood is the absolute height of lovely. Fortunately, we do not intend to make any moving decisions any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that nothing good came of this excursion. You see, I bought not one but two (!) new cookbooks, completely blowing my less-than-one-per-year average out of the water.
How does someone who cooks as much as I do own so few cookbooks? Well, I stick to the basic, larger volumes and rely on my beloved magazines, food sites and your blogs for the rest. But, when I fished back through my rainbow-bookmarked Gourmet on Sunday morning to pick a recipe for dinner, upon reconsideration, few were as exciting as they’d seemed when I first opened it. The root vegetable gratin had about two cups of cream, and the brussels with wild mushrooms and shallots, on top of a deep-frying step, had nearly a stick of butter. Mon dieu! The hips! I mean, I’m not exactly fearful of butter or olive oil, but I eat something that involves any part of almost two cups of fat, it’s not going to be brussels and turnips, okay?
Which leads me to the need for some fresh sources; I’ve had the first America’s Test Kitchen cookbook on my Amazon wish list for so many years, it’s growing roots, and the other, well, I’ve tried again and again to get past my fixation with Ina Garten’s cooking, and let’s just say the with the purchase of her most recent book, it’s not looking likely that this will abate very soon. The entire subway ride home, we thumbed through the glossy, picture-book pages, both landing fixated on the stewed lentils with tomatoes. After a quick trip to the grocery store – oh beloved grocery stores, just two blocks from home! – we were set, and less than an hour later, the most delightful smell wafted through our small and not-tudored apartment. This recipe is an undeniable hit; thick, hearty, healthy, unboring and perfect for the first of many cold and frightfully windy days to come. An outing, two cookbooks, a belly full of stew, a glass of Bordeaux, an episode of the Wire and fingers crossed for no housing angst on the horizon, I’d say it was not bad at all for a Sunday.
Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
2 teaspoons good olive oil
2 cups large-diced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups large-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
1 cup French green lentils (7 ounces)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and the carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
Meanwhile, place the canned plum tomatoes, including the juice, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse several times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no stones in the package.
Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, curry powder, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering. Remove from the heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, season to taste and serve hot.